Category Archives: New Zealand

Of course you can’t make Lord of the Rings movies without decimating citizens’ rights!

I was considering purchasing the blu-rays of the Lord of the Rings movies. But seeing the nasty anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-citizen laws Warner Brothers managed to bully out of New Zealand to make the new ones there… not so keen any more.

How much taxpayer money can Warner Bros. demand from the government of New Zealand to keep production there (rather than, say, in Australia or the Czech Republic)? That answer turns out to be about $120 million, plus the revision of New Zealand’s labor laws to forbid collective bargaining among film-production contractors, plus the passage of three-strikes Internet-disconnection laws for online copyright infringement, plus enthusiastic and, it turns out, illegal cooperation in the shutdown of the pirate-friendly digital storage site Megaupload and the arrest of its owner, Kim Dotcom.

For keeping Warner Bros. happy, Prime Minister John Key, a former Merrill Lynch currency trader, got a replica magic Hobbit sword from U.S. President Barack Obama and a chance to hang New Zealand’s fortunes on becoming the tourist destination for Middle Earth enthusiasts. What could go wrong?

Would Peter Jackson really have abandoned NZ to make the films elsewhere if the NZ government hadn’t agreed to screw over their own citizens? I want to see him being asked that as he flies around the world being gently massaged by entertainment “journalists”.

Not foreigners

Tony Abbott explains to the Parliament why people like him are so much more concerned about the plight of the victims of this week natural disaster in New Zealand than they have been when even more devastating disasters, with even greater loss of life, have recently occurred in other countries:

New Zealanders are family, they’re not foreigners and that’s why this disaster has especially touched the hearts of every Australian. Whatever New Zealand asks, Australia will give. Whatever the Government does, the Coalition will back.

Of course! THEY’RE NOT FOREIGNERS. Well, sure, technically they are, but, well, you know what he means.

You don’t know what he means because it’s an absurd thing to say?

He means that many of them are of Anglo-Saxon descent who speak English as a first language – just like the kind of Australians he thinks of when he’s trying to figure out who’s “foreign” or not.

This one’s even a Roman Catholic like me!

Yes, apparently “that’s why” the Coalition is 100% on board this time, why no expense is to be spared. But remember the qualification. If they weren’t “family” – ie, ethnically similar to Tony Abbott – then things would, it seems, be quite different.

Tony’s unsympathetic attitude towards asylum seekers from non-English-speaking countries makes a lot more sense after that admission.

UPDATE (26/2): The full Hansard record of that debate is now online (it wasn’t when I wrote this post). I’d only heard Abbott’s remarks; turns out Julia Gillard said something similar moments earlier:

I know that the thoughts of all Australians are with New Zealanders as we have watched the devastation on our TV screens. New Zealanders are like family to us. They are like family in good times and bad.

She didn’t make the link between their alleged “family” status and support quite as explicitly as Abbott (whose full remarks, unedited by the ABC, are also available on the above link – he also added, rather unbelievably, that “Almost all of us have family and friends across the Tasman”), but the sentiment was still that New Zealanders are “family” in a way that those in other countries aren’t, and we should therefore care more when they’re suffering. You draw your own conclusions as to the assumptions on which she was relying to make that claim.

That said, only Abbott went on about which “foreigners” aren’t really “foreigners”.

Epuc fail

Apart from the fact that he’s a New Zealander, can someone explain to me why has illustrated this story about Apple’s iPhone launch problems in New Zealand with a picture of Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords?

One man whose face says “New Zealand iPhone launch”

I crunged.

PS It’s funny because they pronounce words slightly differently.

Stop asking stupid questions

Via Hoyden, the news that smacking children apparently “lowers their IQ”.

After studying 800 toddlers aged between two and four over a four-year period, he found those who were subjected to smacking had an IQ five points lower than that of a child who wasn’t physically disciplined.

An alternative conclusion: intelligence has a genetic correlation and it’s stupider parents who beat their children.

Anyway, talking of stupid, this reminded me of New Zealand’s recent abortive citizen initiated referendum on the subject, and a discussion I’d been meaning to have here on their bizarre system.

In NZ, you don’t need a referendum to amend the Constitution – it could be done with a simple Act of Parliament. No, when the people are asked by the government to answer a specific question in NZ, it’s via a non-binding system which costs millions of dollars and involves poorly-worded questions framed by cranks being expensively put and then the results being ignored by the government.

They’ve had three so far –

  • “Should the number of professional fire-fighters employed full-time in the New Zealand Fire Service be reduced below the number employed in 1 January 1995?” (Framed as a negative question because it’s easier to get people to vote “no”, even though that meant that the “yes” side was defending a proposition it didn’t propose – hardly any turnout, ignored.)

  • “Should the size of the House of Representatives be reduced from 120 members to 99 members?” (Passed, a decade later still not implemented – raising another question: should there be a time limit? Should laws be enacted based on something the electorate said ten years ago?)
  • And the spectacularly vague – “Should there be a reform of our Justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?” (Four questions in one; meaningless, ignored.)

I know what question I’d put up for a Citizen Initiated Referendum if I lived in NZ:

“Should the Government continue to waste public money on poorly-worded Citizen Initiated Referenda?”

I’d greatly enjoy watching the “yes” campaign tie itself in knots defending that.